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Question

56. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which policing methods here are in accordance with best practice throughout Europe and globally with particular reference to the strength of the force, deployment techniques, the availability of modern technology and intelligence in the fight against crime, including organised crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42370/18]

Answer

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): In accordance with section 26 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the direction and control of the Garda Síochána. In exercising this function, I understand that the Garda Commissioner continues to ensure that relevant policing developments in other jurisdictions are reviewed on an on-going basis so that international best practice can be identified and, where appropriate, applied throughout the Garda Síochána. In addition I wish to assure the Deputy that when developing policy or legislative proposals on policing matters my Department would always have regard to international models.
I am informed by the Commissioner that the Cohort model of resource allocation has been in use by Garda management since 2015 and is currently the model utilised for the allocation of personnel within An Garda Síochána. The model is a dynamic distribution model and aims to impose a numerical/mathematical measure on the policing needs of each Division nationwide. The allocation and transfer of Garda Personnel is determined by a number of factors, including crime and non-crime workload, population, area, policing arrangements, operational strategies and transfers applications, including welfare issues. When allocation of resources is under review, comprehensive consultation is carried out with local Garda management during which all relevant factors are taken into consideration. Where a deficiency in resources is identified the matter is considered fully and addressed accordingly.
As the Deputy will be aware the Garda Síochána Act 2005 contains provisions, the purpose of which are to assist the Garda Síochána to operate to the best standards in line with the police services of other comparable jurisdictions. The Act provided for the establishment of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate and section 117(1) of the Act requires the Garda Síochána Inspectorate to benchmark their recommendations by reference to the best standards of comparable police services. Arising from this requirement, every inspection conducted by the Garda Inspectorate, and any recommendation arising, has involved examining and taking account of policing practices in other jurisdictions.
The Deputy will no doubt be aware that An Garda Síochána is currently undertaking a programme of accelerated recruitment, as part of the Government’s commitment to a strengthened service through the Five Year High Level Reform and Workforce Plan to achieve an overall workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021, including 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Garda Reserve Members and 4,000 civilians.
To support the Commissioner in this recruitment, I have secured funding in Budget 2019 which facilitates the recruitment of up to 800 more Gardaí next year. The Budget also provides for the necessary civilian Garda staff to fill critical skills gaps and enable the further redeployment of Gardaí to front line duties. Since the re-opening of Templemore College in September 2014, we have been rebuilding the Garda organisation and I am pleased that, since then, approximately 2,200 new Garda members have attested and assigned to duties in communities throughout the country. Garda numbers will increase to approximately 14,000 by the end of this year for the first time since 2011 and are on target to reach 15,000 by 2021.
The Deputy may also wish to note one of the functions of the Garda Professional Standards Unit, which was established under Section 24 of the 2005 Act, is to promote the highest standards of practice, as measured by reference to the best standards of comparable police services, in operational, administrative and management matters relating to An Garda Síochána. It also undertakes reviews, as directed by the Garda Commissioner, into operational, administrative and management matters relating to the Garda Síochána at all levels. Arising from these reviews, the Unit proposes measures to improve performance and promote the highest standards of practice throughout the Garda Síochána with reference to those of comparable police services. The Garda Commissioner, on an ongoing basis, draws on the Unit's proposals to enhance policing practices and policies.
As the Deputy will be aware the Commission on the Future of Policing published its report on 18 September. The report contains a wide range of recommendations which comprehensively address all the themes set out in the Commission's terms of reference. The need for digital innovation and information was highlighted by the Commission and I am pleased that funding of around €65 million for ICT is provided for in Budget 2019. This is part of the €1.76 billion allocated to An Garda Siochána in 2019 which represents an increase of €110 million on this years allocation.
This is a major report on one of the key functions of the State and it is now receiving appropriate consideration. My Department is undertaking a detailed consultation process with the new Commissioner and other agencies as well as with other Government departments which are potentially impacted by the report's recommendations. As part of this process, I have asked the Garda Commissioner to respond to the recommendations in the report insofar as they directly concern An Garda Síochána. I have requested that this response will include an implementation plan of how he intends to take matters forward.
I will return to Government to discuss my substantive response as well as a High-level Implementation Plan and proposed project structure before the end of the year.